Transitions in and out of The Son-Rise Program®playroom can be seamless for some parents and Child Facilitators. However, every now and then we experience challenges with a child clinging to the parent or a person attempting to leave the playroom. Sometimes our children might say “NO” to the person who is entering the room or push them away. Here are some thoughts and ideas that will help you deal with tricky transitions:
What we BELIEVE is a huge INFLUENCE on our children! If we believe the playroom is a room of excitement, opportunity and absolutely the best place to inspire our children to learn and grow, our children will not be able to resist the playroom. They will be excited and interested to have new people come and be with them in the playroom. If you have doubts that the playroom is not fun or useful for your child, then you will not be fully behind The Son-Rise Program techniques and they will pick up on your hesitancy. Our children are always seeking control — when our attitude is not consistent and we have doubts they will test our reactions and responses. Our behavior and beliefs model and guide them on what to move towards and what to move away from.
If you have a child who frequently leaves the playroom, we suggest that you lock the door during your Son-Rise Program sessions. This guarantees the purest quality time to love them and help them. When they stay inside the playroom, you can offer them the continuity of an environment in which they will thrive. More importantly, our children are dealing with challenges relating to and connecting to us, so we want to eliminate as many control battles as possible. We want to show them that people are easy and fun to be with as opposed to obstacles keeping them from doing things they want to do. The more our children leave the playroom, the more time is spent chasing them around the house, and policing them and setting boundaries. Locking the door is one boundary in a room of a thousand opportunities. When our children attend school, they are not able to leave whenever they want to, so as long as you are their care giver, you are in charge of their learning environment.
Get organized and create a system for your transitions! If you have a key to the playroom keep it in your pocket or in a designated playroom spot so that you have a greater sense of control of the transition. Get some extra keys made for your Son-Rise Program team members so there is no fumbling to exchange keys as a new person arrives at a time your child may be challenged by the transition. In our playroom at the Autism Treatment Center of America™, doors lock from the outside using a simple pop lock. Those on the outside can easily come in and those on the inside know where the key is when they need to leave. The person leaving the room can lock the door behind them and the next person can enter from the outside because simply turning the door knob from the outside unlocks the door. We also use a bolt on the inside of the door so that when someone is coming in, they can lock the door behind them until the person leaving is ready to exit. Until your door/transition system is up and running smoothly, you might want to allow a little extra time for transitions in and out of the playroom. Consider asking your volunteers to come 5 minutes early and allow 5 minutes extra at the end of their session until you all feel you know the system well.
If you don’t have the pop lock system, a bolt from the inside would be just as effective. Let’s call the person leaving “Mary the Mom” and the person taking over the session “John the volunteer” for the sake of this article. Mary the Mom can reach the lock and let John the volunteer into the playroom when they are ready to transition. Installing a small viewing window on the door is a useful way for the person entering to see what’s going on as they knock on the door but is not necessary.
Entering and leaving the playroom when it’s a challenge … John the volunteer will look through the door window and check where the child is located in the playroom. If the child is not near the door, he will knock, and if the child is near the door; he will wait. Once he knocks, Mary the Mom swiftly opens the door, lets John the volunteer in and he locks the door behind him. So now both facilitators are in the playroom. If there is no door window, John the volunteer will knock and wait, Mary the Mom will wait for the right moment and then open the door to let John the volunteer in. If using a lock, John the volunteer will simply unlock the door and enter, closing it and locking it behind him.
Now they are both inside the playroom … Mary the Mom sweetly explains that she is going to leave, telling her child that she loves them and that John the volunteer is now here to play. John the volunteer will then increase his energy, excitement and enthusiasm level, and greet the child and move towards what they are doing; either joining them in what they have been doing or initiating something new. Mary the Mom then decreases her energy, excitement and interest level. This usually works nicely but at times your child may start to whine, cry or cling to Mary the Mom. It’s imperative that Mary the Mom doesn’t get excited, be playful or give them hugs and attention, as it can create more clinginess and makes it more challenging for John the volunteer to be accepted. Without stooping down to the child’s level, Mary again explains that she’s leaving, that she loves them and that she will see them later. She then turns to the wall by the door and remains calm, still and unresponsive. This process will support John the volunteer as he takes over to transition smoothly.
Take your time, remain loving and accepting and know that your child will be ok and trust that your leaving is a great opportunity for them to be more social. Then, when they are busy doing something else, slip out of the door. If they remain fixated on you/Mary the Mom, John the volunteer can explain that Mom needs to leave and that she won’t be playing with them anymore. In the meantime, Mary the Mom stays silent. Eventually your child will know that nothing fun or exciting is happening any longer and will turn their focus to John the volunteer.
Do not lie to your child … we want our children to trust us … that means being truthful. Tempting though it may be to say “I’ll be back in a minute” or “I’m just going to get a cup of tea”, it is not true and doesn’t bode well for our children to be able to relate to us.
Once Mary the Mom has left the playroom, your child may say to John “No” or “Move away” or “I don’t want to play with you” or push John the volunteer away. John then can give the child space and lovingly explain that he won’t be leaving but it’s totally OK if they don’t want to play with him right now. Then in a few minutes John can try joining them in what they are doing.